By Ilena Marron, Grade 4 General Studies Teacher
November brings with it images of families and friends sitting tableside celebrating Thanksgiving along with lines of shoppers out the door looking for the best deals at every store. Children take time creating long lists filled with possible Hanukah presents. So the big question is: how do you focus on all the great things you have during this time? The answer is simple: by practicing gratitude.
What is gratitude? Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. Dr. Robert Emmons, the world’s scientific expert on gratitude, found that there are physical, psychological, and interpersonal benefits of gratitude including better quality of life and being kinder and more generous to others.
Gratitude journals are the backbone of developing a practice of gratitude, and no one is too young to start. You are actively rewiring your brain to focus on the positive things in your life. Ways to begin your practice may include adding your gratitude to a nightly Shema, writing daily gratitude journals, recording a gratitude video, or even drawing that for which you are grateful.
The fourth grade class will be practicing gratitude by writing in individual gratitude journals every day in November leading up to Thanksgiving. Some journal prompts will include questions like “What traditions are you most grateful for?” and “What is the most beautiful thing you saw this week?” Students will be able to reflect daily on gratitude. During Morning Meeting, students make personal gratitude public by sharing from the gratitude journals. One student shared, “I am grateful for my arms and legs because they help me walk, dance and draw.” Another student shared, “I am grateful for school because that is where my friends are and they are always there for me.”
Noticing what you are grateful for is the first step, but the next step is expressing gratitude. In addition to gratitude journals, students will have the opportunity to express gratitude to others by crafting thank you notes for people who help them everyday at school and at home. The final step is to reflect on how you felt after expressing your gratitude.
The fourth graders are looking forward to sharing their journals and participating in a gratitude activity at Yom Dor’ l Dor on Tuesday, November 26.